On Saturday morning around 3 am, I was once again reminded that I work with some of the most talented I have ever met. A few of us were hanging out with Chris Kirkpatrick, formerly of N*SYNC after one of my coworker’s hilarious show at Upright Citizens Brigade. Jason Flowers put on a show called COOL SHOW 4 TEEN GIRLZ and got Chris Kirkpatrick to fly up from Florida for it. Kind of ridiculous.
Jason’s comedy successes, though, fit right in with the rest of the blip.tv employees’ side projects, playthings and hobbies. Everyone has something going on that could probably spin off into its own venture. Although this probably makes our founders sleep a little less at night, it encourages a healthy competition to subtly one-up each other. In turn, we all benefit from the little side projects we help each other on. Blip benefits from having some of the most “with it” employees around who are able to make difficult decisions based on past experience, not just guesses.
In no particular order, here are the side projects to come out of blip.tv employees:
- Corkboard.me. A virtual corkboard created by our QA guy Tim. It’s been featured on Lifehacker and a bunch of other sites. It has somewhere north of 150k users in its first 6 months.
- The Complete Guide to Everything. A satirical weekly podcast by our content guy Tom and his pal Tim. Tickets for their live show in London go on sale tomorrow.
- Modern Day Pirates, a popular blog run by our creative designer, Brandon.
- Laughing Historically, a new show about hilarious historic happenings, also by Brandon.
- Justin Day’s crazy contraptions. Like a Big Red Button that makes a gigantic cuddlefish blink.
- Pingwire. An iPhone app that shows you a stream of nearly every picture posted to Twitter in realtime that’s gotten plenty of attention from the Times and Boing Boing. Mesmerizing. Created by our design guy, Allan.
- COOL SHOW 4 TEEN GIRLZ. A live comedy show just getting off the ground by one of our content guys, Jason.
- Friday Beats, a weekly music blog run by our systems man, Ogali. It’s what I use to discover new music.
- Evan and Mike’s Tumblr accounts. Those guys drive some real traffic.
In a weird way, encouraging employees to do side projects makes the company itself stronger. It’s a counter-intuitive notion, sure. But the things that I personally learn while doing my side projects have made me a better programmer. While Rails (what I build most of my projects in) has “scaling issues,” the lessons learned from the paradigms it introduces make people write better software. I bring those back to blip.tv as a result. Having robust, public-facing projects allows us to be learning lessons both in and out of work. Everyone is better off, and happier, as a result. We aren’t overworked and we produce some amazing things.
So if you’re a startup founder and you’re worried that your employees’ side projects are getting too big, bite your tongue and don’t go with your gut. Encourage them.